How it started
My father has a friend who was killed in a motorcycle accident, so there was no way I was ever going to get anything with two wheels and a motor. In Wayne NJ when I grew up, kids got mopeds to get around as soon as they turned 14. I had a bicycle, and I quickly learned how to keep up with the mopeds. Somehow, word got around to a local cycling coach that there was a kid on a bike drafting mopeds and keeping up. That’s how my racing career started.
There weren’t many serious cyclists in my town when I was growing up, so support wasn’t great. People understood local baseball or football, but the idea of traveling to bike races didn’t make much sense to most. Just the same, my little corner of northern NJ was turning into a hotbed of junior bike racing. My parents house is about 20 miles from Orange county NY, along the way there’s a hill called Skyline drive. Skyline drive was like our own little clubhouse, you only go there if you can climb, and we know just about everybody we saw on the hill.
Getting into bike racing
I loved racing, mostly because we never took it all that seriously. My last year as a junior they held junior worlds in the US, so they decided to bump up the distance of the road races. At the race in Herriman state park the whole field (maybe 15 of us) agreed that we were racing when the parents could see us, other than that we were tootling along. My teammates and I pushed ourselves incredibly hard, but it always seemed fun. We did these epic rides that I still talk about. It was a special time.
The line not crossed
My first exposure to the cheating that’s become commonplace in the sport was in my last year as a junior. Making the selection for the junior national team wasn’t that hard, deciding not to take place in their “blood boosting” program, knowing it meant not making the team was much harder.
Then the world got a little faster…
I entered senior racing as a cat2, which meant that I was thrown into the 1/2/Pro races. I was one of the best juniors in the country, so I expected to be on the podium after the race. My first senior race was eye opening. I spent the whole time going as hard as I could, trying to hang onto the wheel in front of me, asking myself the whole time “who’s up there doing this???” I learned how to go faster, I even won a comforter on an 85 degree day in a lap sprint (I don’t think anyone else wanted it). I never made much of a name for myself past my junior years, but I had fun doing it.
Learning from mistakes
Over the winter I was doing some strength training when things went horribly wrong. I was using a machine where you lie flat on a sled which holds you by the shoulders. It then loads your spine with all the force you can generate with your legs. My spine didn’t like that much as L4/L5 failed and I went from a bike racer to a cripple in half a second.
The road back from that wasn’t much fun, but it did serve to open my eyes to what I now teach. I had very little strength in my lower body, so I identified large muscle groups that I could learn how to use. At first I used a TENS unit just to sense the muscle, then I went back to the gym and learned how to use them. Relearning how to walk is a huge challenge because of all the small muscles needed for balance. Riding a stationary bike by comparison is simple, so the second time around I learned how to ride a bike before I learned how to walk. This should explain a lot about me…